Men's Basketball

Cohen: Georgetown’s Otto steals show on record-setting day for Syracuse

When it was all over, when the dozens of orange balloons had fallen for the final time and the reverberations from a record crowd had faded away, when the jersey celebrating a city’s favorite son had been unveiled in the rafters, an ironic cheer emanated softly from the corner of the Carrier Dome.

“Otto! Otto! Otto!”

Not an uncommon utterance in this particular stadium at this particular school, where Otto is the name of the Syracuse mascot.

But on this particular evening following this particular game, a different Otto stole this show. This Otto wore navy blue and gray — Georgetown colors — and this Otto singlehandedly disappointed the majority of the 35,012 spectators by pouring in 33 points during a 57-46 upset of the Orange.

For the second time in 33 years, Georgetown closed an arena on the Syracuse campus.

“I’m sure you guys are waiting for a Manley Field House-type of statement,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “You’re not going to get it, but it feels good to win here.”

Through Porter’s brilliance and Syracuse’s offensive ineptitude, the Hoyas snapped a 38-game home winning streak that dampened the afternoon an entire city was hoping to remember for a very different reason. A week’s worth of anticipation — camping in Boeheimburg, T-shirts celebrating the sell out, the return of Carmelo Anthony — deflated with each 3-pointer by Porter and every clanking miss by Syracuse until the emotional balloon finally popped on a layup by Markel Starks with 2:31 remaining.

After closing Manley Field House with a 52-50 win in 1980, the Hoyas had done it again in 2013. Georgetown left Syracuse, the city in which its entire institution is reviled, with a win — perhaps for the final time. Ever.

“There’s a lot of emotions,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Sometimes you try too hard, maybe. It looked for a little while like we were trying a little too hard on offense. It took us a long time — I don’t think we ever got comfortable offensively, really.”

Juiced by a fanatical crowd that bubbled with equal parts beer and “Beat Georgetown,” the Orange put forth an uncharacteristic offensive display. Brandon Triche and James Southerland fired 3-pointer after 3-pointer, each one seeming to move another foot beyond the arc.

Syracuse launched 11 times from 3-point range in the first 12 minutes of the game alone. It erased an early five-point lead, as Georgetown methodically carved up the zone defense to get to the foul line or find Porter for jump shots.

“Tight? I think we were extra loose,” Triche said. “We were just letting the ball fly. When we had them on the ropes, we were letting the ball fly. We could have obviously drove to the basket a lot more.”

So by the time Porter, the Orange-killer, dunked and connected from long range on back-to-back possessions, the Hoyas suddenly led by four with 4:34 remaining in the first half. They’d weathered the initial storm of the largest on-campus crowd in college basketball history — something Villanova could not do when the previous attendance mark was set in the Carrier Dome in 2010 — and believed a second torturous upset was possible.

On Feb. 13, 1980, a pair of free throws from Georgetown’s Eric “Sleepy” Floyd sealed a history victory that snapped a 57-game Syracuse home winning streak in the rowdy Manley Field House. It was the final game before the Orange moved to the Carrier Dome, and John Thompson Jr. grabbed a courtside microphone to declare emphatically that Manley Field House was closed.

There was no such proclamation on Saturday, no defining moment that will live on as a part of Syracuse-Georgetown lore. Just a breathtaking performance by a player who hit five 3-pointers and at one point outscored the Orange 16-15 by himself.

Everything Georgetown needed, Otto Porter did. And that’s what Syracuse fans will remember in streak-snapper, part two.

“I thought Porter was so good today that he just dominated the game,” Boeheim said.

And that’s why when it was all over, when the spectacle had been spoiled and the record crowd recoiled, Porter was the Otto that mattered.

Michael Cohen is a staff writer at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at mjcohe02@syr.edu, or on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

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